Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How to do Something Worthwhile with your Life

Everything worthwhile is uphill. We literally have to pull ourselves up to go to the gym, to read a book rather than watch TV, to stay away from swallowing eba before bedtime and even to go to work in the mornings.

I remember numerous occasions when I fell short.  When I had stayed away from late night snacking for a while and then one night, found myself raiding the fridge mercilessly.  When I had registered at the gym and then found myself justifying that the stress I go through at work every day is enough work-out.

The most amazing thing is that we know that the uphill tasks are way more beneficial to us than our downhill habits, at least in the long term.  We know that reading a good book is more beneficial than binge-watching all those episodes of House of Cards (Why do those guys even release all the episodes at once?).  But we still give in to temptations; we still do what we know will hurt us in the long term.

Why is that?
Personally, I think there are two main reasons for this.  First is that the effects of such decisions are not always immediate.  Imagine if you ate eba at night before going to bed and you woke up extremely fat in the morning. Or you had a puff of cigarette and dropped dead immediately.  Everyone would start making the right choices immediately, rather than putting them off and allowing the wrong ones kill us slowly as we justify them.

The second reason is that, although we may like to think otherwise, we listen more to our bodies than to our minds.  And that is the base level of humans.  The uphill task is to pull ourselves up from listening to the voice in our body (our feelings) to listening to the voice in our head (our thoughts).  This is what separates the classes from the masses. It is not good luck; it is not any old woman covering your star with a big basin in the village.  It is simply a decision to do the right thing regardless of how you feel; allowing your mind to lead your body consistently, because you understand that feelings should come after actions and not waiting to take action when you “have the feeling”.

Here are 5 helpful tips in trying to lead yourself with your mind:

Judge Yourself by Your Actions and Not Your Intentions
This will help you to truly know where you’re at.  You can’t change your situation if you don’t know what to change.  This is the way we judge other people. If you caught your girlfriend in bed with another guy and she said “it’s not what you think”, I’m pretty sure you would judge her by her actions and not by whatever you were supposed to think.

We judge others by their actions, and sometimes we don’t even hesitate to point it out to them. We even go further and try to change people.  If we could just judge ourselves the way we judge others –by our actions and not our intentions –we would get our lives on track quicker.  The challenge here is that it is very tough for people to get real with themselves.  We would rather keep on justifying our actions and floating in the ivory tower of theory.

Feed Your Mind
It requires mental toughness to go against your initial feelings.  Your mind has to be strong enough to dominate your body.  The best way to achieve this is to feed your mind, and feed it every day.  Reading from a good book for at least fifteen minutes a day has helped me tremendously in this area.  Reading renews your mind and expands it.  It builds your imagination muscle.  It fires you up and makes you want to live the reality of the words you read.  Now, I don’t know if text books will do these for you; they certainly didn’t for me. So, I would recommend self-development books.  They already contain enough information on transforming yourself anyway. And the only way you can be totally transformed is through renewing your mind.

Set Challenges
Goals are fine, but they have to be pursued and achieved.  One quick way to hit your goals is to set challenges and have people that will keep you accountable to them. I set a challenge to read fifteen minutes every day, for 90 days straight, and for that I had a personal development coach holding me accountable.

When you set challenges, let people know. Tell Facebook, tell Twitter, tell your colleagues at work that you don’t plan to join them for lunch for the next two months so that you can hit your goal of saving for your trip.  People will hold you accountable. They will keep on asking you about it; some to make fun of you and some to encourage you.  We live in a spectator’s world; people just enjoy watching others achieve or attempt to achieve something.  So why not make good use of them anyway?

Do First Things First
I just learnt something fascinating about “will-power”.  We only have so much will-power each day and as we go through our day, making decisions along the way, our will-power diminishes.  This is why we are exhausted when we return home from work.

The tougher the decisions you make, the more will-power you’ll use up.  So if you decide to spend the earliest part of your morning going through numerous clothes and deciding what to wear, you’ll have way less will-power left. And you will be less willing to bring yourself to do any demanding task productively throughout the day.

It is much more effective to do the mentally-tough things first.  Work on yourself in the morning; read a book, expand your projects, do some thinking.  We must learn to put off the non-productive things until the evening and gradually work towards having them on auto-run so that we don’t have to think much about them.  I’m talking about things like having all your shirts lined up so you don’t brainstorm about what to wear, having a shopping list when you go into the store, and even having a food time table.  You want to free up your will power and mental bandwidth for more productive activities.

Maintain a Positive (Mental) Attitude
This is one good way to train your mind to dictate to your body how to feel.  I write out five things I’m thankful for every morning.  This means that I always spend the previous day looking out for what I will write down the next morning.  It forces me to try to look for the good in every situation.  The result of this is optimism!  The mind of the optimist is always agile, adventurous, and also content.  It knows that there is something to live for everyday, and that is why it has little difficulty getting the body to go do beneficial things such as working out, working on projects, hitting goals, reading and making new friends!

It is certainly not an easy task to lead ourselves with our heads, especially because of the resistance we get from our bodies.  We just have to intentionally get off our butts and apply these tips everyday, until they become second nature.

(Credit: Akanna Okeke)

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